Sports

Old Timers Baseball: A League Of Their Own

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(credit: CBS) Mike Max
Mike Max returned to WCCO-TV as a sports reporter and anchor in Apr...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s quite a scene when you gather a group of veteran baseball players to a nice ball park on a sun kissed day. When a group from California visited a group from Minnesota, it was what baseball was supposed to be about — a whole lot of fun for some “veteran” ballplayers.

On a beautiful baseball field, they gathered to play their
favorite sport. With the youthful engagement of Little League, they play this game. The only difference is the age — a 60-year-old minimum.

“60-plus, yeah. Some of the guys out here are 70, 75,” Bob lattery said. “When I went to Phoenix, I was 65 and I was a rookie down there. I couldn’t believe that.”

It was in Phoenix, he was playing in a tournament with Jim Vanasek — a now San Diego native who grew up near New Prague.

“I’m moved to California in ’71 and started playing baseball down there in the year 2000, so I took 29 years off between careers,” Vanasek said.

He decided to bring his team from San Diego to play five games at five different small town ball parks against a team from
Minnesota.

“We’ve played in five parks this week. Union Hill, New Prague, Prior Lake and here in Jordan. We got rained out Saturday, but we’ve had a ball playing with these guys, got to know them pretty well. Some of these guys are in their mid- to upper-70s and they can still play ball,” Pat Thompson said.

Most in this group have played the game at a high level somewhere. Ty Wacker made a name in southern Minnesota for baseball and as a football coach. Now that he’s retired, he plays baseball — lots of it.

“It’s a lot of fun, great bunch of people. I play with various teams around the country. I play with Sacramento, South Dakota and Chicago. Wherever there’s a tournament, I usually get called up,” Wacker said. “I usually get about 60 (games) with tournaments. I’ll play up until the end of February, I think.”

The guys from Minnesota already know about these picturesque ball parks. The guys from California are finding out — first-hand.

“Parks are excellent, much better than we have in southern California,” said Gary Shima. “Much better upkeep, better quality. All the small towns have an excellent ball field.”

Yes, this is their element — just like it was when they were kids. Playing a kids game because they love it and because they
can.

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